Chris L. Wells, PhD, PT, CCS, ATC
One out of every three adults over the age of 65 years will fall annually. Falls are the leading cause of injury-associated deaths resulting in 18,000 deaths for adults over the age of 65 each year. Over 19 billion dollars are spent on caring for individuals who suffer injuries from falls.
One of the most important things you can do for yourself is take some time to prepare yourself and your home to prevent falls. Things you can do to prevent falls include the following:
- Exercise routinely: Your exercise program should include strengthening your legs, improving your balance, and the exercises should be weight bearing in nature.
- Ask your doctor and pharmacist to look over your medication list including over the counter medication to decrease side effects and interactions that may cause dizziness, drowsiness and low blood pressure.
- Have your eyes examined annually.
- Remove tripping hazards like pick up throw rugs, remove electrical cords from walkways; install grab bars and railings and improve lighting.
- Talk to your doctor about increasing your calcium and vitamin D intake.
- Have your doctor order a dexa scan to assess your bone health and prescribe aggressive treatment for osteopenia and osteoporosis.
The next thing you should do is to prepare yourself in case you do fall. It is important to think about your actions and options if a fall should occur. If you live alone make sure you have a system in place to let someone know if something is wrong. A safety routine could include having to call a specific person every day or try turning on and off the porch light to let a neighbor know you are up and moving around.
Here are some suggestions if you do happen to fall:
- If you are alone at home when a fall occurs, stay calm. Do not panic because this will cloud your judgment and waste energy.
- Assess yourself. Are you having severe pain, can you see clearly, and can you move your arms and legs?
- Think about where you are in the house, where is the closest phone and closest door?
- If you decide to get up, use a sturdy piece of furniture to assist you. Then sit there for a while before trying to stand up.
- Make sure you call someone to inform them of the fall so you can be assessed for injuries and cause.
If you cannot get up or decide not to try to get up:
- Use your personal alarm device if you have one.
- Try to slowly slide or crawl to the phone or door to obtain help.
- Try to get someone’s attention by flashing a light on and off or making noise like banging on pots and pans.
- Try to get something to drink and something to cover yourself to keep you warm and hydrated while you wait for help.
- The key is not to panic and move slowly if you are able to conserve your energy and think clearly.
- Work with your doctor, pharmacist, and therapist to attempt to determine the cause of the fall so additional medical management and further preventive measures are implemented.